CSExtra – Top Space News for Friday, March 28, 2014
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Today’s CSExtra offers the latest reporting and commentary on space related activities from across the globe. NASA Administrator Charles Bolden fields Congressional questioning over U.S. human space launch strategies, future plans to explore an asteroid, Mars. Proposed 2015 NASA budget leaves fate of long lived Mars Opportunity rover in doubt. Advanced technology Space Launch System heavy lift rocket fuel tank reaches Marshall Space Flight Center for testing. Europe establishes a terrestrial “Mars Yard” for testing of future planetary rover. U.S., Russian crew reaches International Space Station late Thursday, though two days late. Fire damage to Cape Canaveral, Fla., military radar tracking facility leaves U.S. East Coast launches on hold. Boeing’s X-37B setting records for marathon classified orbital mission. Missing Malaysian jetliner puts spotlight on Earth orbiting satellites. Shuttle Columbia loss underpins Congressional skepticism over NASA Commercial Crew Program safety. SpaceX explains Falcon 9 launch cost structure.
NASA 2015 Budget
Space News (3/27): Congressional hearing on NASA’s $17.5 billion 2015 budget request Thursday includes a reminder from NASA Administrator Charles Bolden that underfunding for the Commercial Crew Program has delayed initiation of a new U.S. human launch capability by two years — 2017 at earliest, rather than 2015; U.S. human launches interrupted by 2011 space shuttle retirement.
Spacepolicyonline.com (3/28): In hearing before the U.S. House Space Subcommittee on Thursday, NASA Administrator links future of U.S. human spaceflight to fate of International Space Station and NASA’s Commercial Crew Program initiative to establish competing companies able to transport NASA astronauts to and from the space station. “Bolden argued that without ISS, medical research and technology development required before — sending humans into deep space would not be possible. If there is no ISS, he asserted, there is no need for SLS or Orion,” according to the report. NASA is developing the Space Launch System heavy lift rocket and Orion crew vehicle to start U.S. explorers on future missions of deep space exploration.
The Planetary Society (3/27): NASA’s year old Asteroid Redirect Mission concept faces broad bipartisan criticism from U.S. House Space Subcommittee, with legislators saying ARM has been slow to establish a specific destination, a timeline and budget. ARM components are an essential part of an eventual human Mars mission, NASA Administrator Charles Bolden informs the panel.
Human Deep Space Exploration
Huntsville Times (3/27): Composite fuel tank for NASA’s Space Launch System heavy lift rocket reaches NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center on Thursday. Developed by Boeing from lightweight materials, the tank was flown by NASA from the Seattle area to Alabama for testing. The tank design is for the upper stage of the SLS, a rocket designed to start U.S. astronauts on future missions of deep space exploration.
Unmanned Deep Space Exploration
Los Angeles Times (3/27): After 10 years on Mars, Opportunity may be in budget jeopardy.
CNN (3/27): Near London, engineers with Airbus Defence and Space establish a Mars Yard to test rovers and other components associated with the European Space Agency’s upcoming Exo-Mars missions. A 2016 mission includes a lander and a 2018 flight features a Mars rover.
Low Earth Orbit
Spaceflightnow.com (3/27): Two days later than planned, Russian Soyuz crew transport capsule delivers three U.S. and Russian astronauts to the International Space Station. Docking occurs Thursday at 7:53 p.m., EDT.
Discovery.com (3/27): Soyuz crew members Alexander Skvortsov, Oleg Artemyev and NASA astronaut Steven Swanson reach International Space Station on Thursday at 7:53 p.m., EDT, two days later than planned because of missed post-launch rendezvous maneuver.
Florida Today (3/28): Repairs to electrical damage at U.S. Air Force rocket tracking installation in Central Florida may delay U.S. East Coast launches well into April.
Space.com (3/27): U.S. Air Force unpiloted reusable X-37B space plane flies into record territory — 470 days and counting on secret mission.
Associated Press via Washington Post (3/27): Search for missing Malaysian jetliner and the 239 aboard spotlights Earth orbiting satellites. A look at the lineup: about 1,100 functional spacecraft circle.
Commercial to Low Earth Orbit
Aviation Week & Space Technology (3/26): Congress is proving difficult to convince when it comes to supporting NASA’s Commercial Crew Program. Many recall the risks of space flight exposed with the loss of the shuttle orbiters Columbia and Challenger in 2003 and 1986, according to the report. Is commercial space flight safe?
Space News and the Spaceshow.com (3/27): SpaceX president Gwynne Shotwell explains Falcon 9 pricing differences for commercial clients, the U.S. military and NASA. “It’s more expensive to do these missions,” she said of U.S. government launches compared to commercial missions. “The Air Force asks for more stuff. The missions we do for NASA under the [NASA Launch Services] contract are also more expensive because NASA asks to do more analysis.” The company’s prices range from $60 million for a commercial client and $10 million to $30 million more for U.S. military and NASA missions, according to the report.
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